I was introduced to Gannon Hall’s personal blueprint exercise during my time exploring Product Management at Shopify in 2018. My favourite explanation of it is by Jovin Cronin-Wilesmith over on Medium: this is the personal side to your CV, a way to think through, define, and iterate on your own personal philosophy, working needs, and so-called “culture fit.”
I’ve kept an ongoing blueprint since then, usually in a Google Doc that I’d give to people new to my team or to working with me on a project. I asked new direct reports and members of my growing team to build their own, giving me a chance to glimpse inside their heads but also giving them a chance to consciously work through (and express) their needs and wants.
This is iterative and a constant work-in-progress (as all people are) – if you know me and think I’m missing something, shoot me a message and let me know! I always want this to be better.
- To most people I’m Dan, to some Daniel. I prefer not to be called Danny.
- My pronouns are he/him.
- I am by birth a colonizer living in Canada, on the unceded traditional territory of the Akwesasne Mohawk peoples in Cornwall, Ontario. I grew up in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, and moved to the much smaller Cornwall in 2018. I love it and may go even more rural with my next move.
- I am a profoundly privileged person – I live at the intersection of being cisgender, heterosexual, upper-middle class, white, and male. I consider it a part of my life’s responsibilities to use that privilege to help balance those scales where I can.
- Part of this is calling out the blind spots of people around me. I am not always very good at this, as I struggle with finding the right words.
- I am not perfect at any of this by any stretch. I actively want to be told when I am experiencing a blind spot of my own, and acknowledge that it’s no one’s responsibility but my own to find them.
- The exceptions to my privilege are health-related; I suffer from anxiety, depression, and am disabled by way of diabetes. Even with these I am privileged, as my disability is not visible or commonly used in discriminatory practices. I strive to use my other privileges to advocate for mental health and diabetic destigmatization and understanding from a personal perspective.
- I am an introvert. I experience FOMO but run out of energy quickly in groups (especially large ones), so will often consciously and intentionally conserve my energy by choosing some events at larger gatherings like conferences to avoid in favour of others.
- I have been a lead for years and have found ways to manage my energy and use the fulfillment that comes with a great 1:1 to recharge. It’s not universally useful but it can be helpful when it works.
- I am polyamorous, and live with my nesting partner Sarah in a house we own together.
- I am an Enneagram Type 8, a “Challenger,” and have found this to be a relatively accurate personality type. This contributes to my need for autonomy, my quick moves to defend others, my love of control, and my desire to make an impact.
Values and First Principles
- Communication and efficiency are my two most deep-seeded core values. Many of the points that follow in this section will point back to them.
- Autonomy is important, both for myself and for others.
- I especially value my autonomy when it comes to time and desk space. I like being able to get up throughout the day to get a drink or use the restroom more than perhaps most people consciously do, and try to keep regular very short breaks in my day to recharge and preserve that.
- Doing the right thing in the way that eliminates unnecessary effort is what makes me feel good about work. One should do their job well, and one should eliminate unnecessary steps to doing that job, but never reverse that order.
- Vulnerability is incredibly important to me. I believe strongly in radical candour, and I especially value interactions where people tell me vulnerable truths, especially those which can make me a better lead and person. I will listen to criticism with an open heart.
- I have strong beliefs that I hold moderately weakly. I am always open to debate on any of my strong beliefs, but I need stronger evidence to sway my opinions the stronger those beliefs started.
- Personal thank-yous mean more to me than large blow-outs. Public recognition makes me uncomfortable, though I won’t pretend I don’t like it on some level. Knowing that I’m making an impact is important to me and that is a good way of seeing that, as long as it’s not over-done or over-used.
- I am eager for growth in all ways, in and out of work, which requires (and is at its core) change; I like to say I’m pro-change. Not all change is equal, and not all change is approached in the right way. Change management is vital to healthy growth, and it’s a leader’s responsibility to facilitate and guide that.
- Nothing happens on its own, and community and autonomy are not only not mutually exclusive, but are powerful when connected. Learning to embrace autonomy while working in groups has become a superpower that I am eager to grow in others.
- Time- and energy-related boundaries are important for my (and most peoples’) mental health. I set them openly, and am strict about them. I credit rest and disconnection from work during rest as an important factor of a career of high performance.
- I am a people-first lead. I believe that an organizational chart should be bottom-up, with leaders at the bottom to represent their role as supporting those who report to them. My job is to make my direct reports better at their jobs, not to keep them in line or have them do things “for me.”
- II am a written communicator primarily. I love real-time text communication, and favour it over all other forms of communication, but am open to video and voice when it makes others more comfortable.
- When receiving feedback, I like the one-two punch of written feedback being given, with an opportunity for a deeper verbal conversation once it’s been processed. Especially for constructive feedback, sometimes I need to process something before I can really speak to it, and having that given over Slack or by email can help give me that opportunity.
- I have a tendency towards defending people that I think are under-represented or being attacked. Sometimes it means that I’m stepping in without giving them a chance to defend themselves, and sometimes it means I’m giving them a voice that they wouldn’t feel comfortable using otherwise. It’s a mixed bag and I’m always looking to get better at that balance.
- I love “bulldogs” – people who will keep arguing with me until we’re on the same page. I am not arguing with you because I want you to tell me I’m right, I’m arguing with you because I want us both to be right and you haven’t convinced me yet.
- I may over-argue because of this, and I have a blind spot of not seeing when I’m approaching that line. I try to be conscious of that, and I am open to (and genuinely appreciate) being told when I’m approaching it.
- I am much more comfortable answering questions than speaking without prompt. “Tell me about yourself” is much harder than “What does your day-to-day look like?” (That may be part of the motivation of writing this blueprint in the first place…)
How I Work Best
- Autonomy matters to me. I love being given a problem and being told to solve it, rather than handed an existing process – being handed existing processes is a good way to have me thinking about how to make them better, though. I like to check in regularly to ensure alignment as I build confidence.
- I am highly conscious of my energy through the day. Most of my best work happens early, but I like to experiment with my schedule to make sure that’s still true here and there.
- Currently, I work 8am to 4pm EST, and my afternoons are best left to meetings, with mornings being used for deep work.
- I often will work without breaks longer than a few minutes at a time for most of the week, and take time back when needed on Friday afternoons. I have found that this is the best balance of mental health and energy, with the productivity brought by the longer focused blocks of work.
- I have worked remotely for a decade and will never go back to the office: I am happier, more motivated, and vastly more productive when working from home. A lot of that has required active skill-building and understanding the changing needs of business communication in a remote world; these are things I’m eager to teach.
- I prefer to have my day’s schedule set in the morning when I wake up – meetings are ideally not scheduled same-day, and plans aren’t too altered as we go unless I know that’s explicitly the intention for a specific activity. This rolls into my personal life as well. I’d prefer meetings to be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.
- I am keenly aware of the ways numbers are used to manipulate data, and deeply disappointed when people I trust manipulate in that manner.
Interests, Hobbies, and other Small Talk
- I am a big reader, mostly speculative fiction (sci-fi, horror, fantasy). I am a portrait photographer and (very) amateur videographer. I watch a lot of TV and unashamedly love superhero movies. I have a history in theatre and have recently fallen back into that community. I am a big gamer, though only rarely video games – usually I’m playing board games or tabletop roleplaying games.
- Fiction I’ve been reading (or just always love to talk about):
- Anything by NK Jemisin, Scott Lynch, Cory Doctorow, Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, William Gibson.
- I am a particular fanboy of Brandon Sanderson.
- Octavia E Butler’s Parable of the Sower (and Parable of the Talents) were easily the books that most impacted my 2022. I recently finished Kindred and Dawn and will be making my way through the rest of her work soon.
- Nnedi Okorafor’s Noor, William Gibson’s The Peripheral, and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash are a good indication of what sort of media I’ve been craving recently.
- I thought George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire was better-written but with less heart than Andrej Sapkowski’s Witcher series, but neither hold a candle to Tolkien.
- The Silo series by Hugh Howey is fantastic.
- I read a fair bit of nonfiction as well, mostly to establish mental models of my own (personal growth/”self-help” books) or to learn more about subjects I’m undereducated in (history, sociology).
- I enjoyed Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer by J Michael Straczynski, and have dug into books like Story by Robert McKee, and the Save the Cat series of books here and there to help drive my technical understanding around fiction writing.
- Strong Female Character by Fern Brady was an incredible account of growing up as an undiagnosed neurodivergent woman. I can’t recommend this more.
- On related subjects, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez and Naked Feminism by Victoria Bateman gave great insight into both data bias and the history, impact, and resistance to the modesty movement.
- I love books around Stoicism, and highly recommend Ryan Holiday’s books. I re-read Ego is the Enemy annually, give or take, and recently finished Discipline is Destiny.
- No nonfiction book list is complete without the books that most impacted my own experience becoming a lead: Radical Candour by Kim Scott, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, The Effortless Experience by Matthew Dixon (et al), Mindset by Carol Dweck, Atomic Habits by James Clear, The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, Getting Things Done by David Allen. These books are the core of my work brain.